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Palestinian Authority officials here warned over the weekend that Hamas was planning to assassinate top Fatah security and political figures in the West Bank.
The warning was issued shortly after unidentified assailants shot and seriously wounded Idris Ja'bari, the commander of the Fatah-controlled police force in the West Bank town of Halhoul.
The shooting has marred efforts by some Arab and Islamic countries to achieve reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.
It also came hours after PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas rejected a proposal by the president of Yemen, Ali Abdallah Saleh, to end the Fatah-Hamas dispute and form a Palestinian "national unity" government.
Ja'bari was shot outside his home early Saturday morning. PA security sources said the attackers fired dozens of bullets at him. Because of the severity of his wounds, he was transferred to an Israeli hospital for treatment, they added.
The sources blamed Hamas for the shooting, pointing out that Ja'bari had been responsible for the arrest of dozens of Hamas activists in his town in the past few weeks.
"We have no doubt that Hamas was behind the assassination attempt," a senior PA official here told The Jerusalem Post. "We have also received information that Hamas is planning similar attacks on other security and political leaders in the West Bank." The official said that security measures have been taken to foil Hamas's plans, including preemptive arrests of Hamas activists in the West Bank.
"We have arrested nearly 250 Hamas members, including some who were trying to establish security apparatuses in the West Bank," he disclosed. "Security around senior Fatah officials has also been beefed up."
Hamas has also been waging a massive crackdown of Fatah activists in the Gaza Strip. According to Fatah representatives, Hamas militiamen have arrested over 80 Fatah members in the Gaza Strip in the past three weeks.
In yet another sign of the increased tensions between the two parties, the Fatah-controlled Palestine TV on Saturday broadcast an interview with a Hamas detainee who admitted that he was also working for the Shin Bet and that he has assisted Israel in the killing of five Palestinian fugitives.
Hamas claimed last week that the detainee, Moayad Bani Odeh, was "clinically dead" after being brutally tortured in a PA prison in the West Bank.
On Friday, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh repeated the claim in his sermon in one of the mosques. He referred to Odeh as a "holy warrior" and condemned the arrest of Hamas members in the West Bank.
Odeh, who is from the village of Tamoun near Jenin, said in the interview that he had joined Hamas in 2001. Two years later, he added, he was recruited by the Shin Bet and entrusted with reporting on the movements of Palestinian gunmen, five of whom were later killed by the IDF.
Odeh's family accused the PA security forces of torturing their son and forcing him to make a "false" confession on television. "Our son was severely tortured and forced to appear on television," said one of the brothers, Nidal. "We reject any attempt to use my brother in the political dispute between Fatah and Hamas."
Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip reacted very strongly to the appearance of Odeh on television. They accused the PA General Intelligence in the West Bank of torturing the Hamas man and threatened to target the head of the force, Gen. Tawfik Tirawi.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said Tirawi was the one who announced last week that Odeh was "clinically dead." He said Tirawi told Palestinian legislator Khaleda Jarrar that Odeh was in critical condition and had been admitted to hospital. Tirawi later admitted that he had misled the legislator.
"Tirawi is a liar," Barhoum said. "He has a black history of collaborating with Israel. He was responsible for the arrest [by Israel] of several Palestinians, including those behind the assassination of [Tourism Minister] Rehavam Ze'evi."